Monday greeted us with the discovery that there is to be a new Anne of Green Gables TV series, and while I am typically loathe to be a knee jerk reactionary, I am concerned in this situation that this is not good news.
I have two primary objections. First, the show’s press release tells us that it will depict Anne’s story venturing out into “new territories,” as though she were some kind of Huck Finn. Do not tell me that they mean this metaphorically, that these new territories are narrative rather than spatial. I do not want to hear about it. The whole point of Anne — who is “of” Green Gables, first and foremost — is that she does not light out, she finds home. Just as she should not find some new territory spatially (as though the Haunted Woods, or the Lake of Shining Waters, were somehow not enough?!), her narrative ground is equally rich, and I am appalled that someone would suspect me of not gleaning infinite riches from revisiting, say, the croupy baby scene over and over, talmudically, forever.
This “new territory” business smacks of some man getting involved. Sir: if you are that man, picture me serving you liniment oil cake and then apologizing very profusely. Oh! I didn’t mean to.
My second objection is that it is seems unlikely or perhaps impossible that this new production will cast Megan Follows as Anne. Let us turn again to our cake-eating TV executive and ask: Sir, without Megan Follows, what exactly is the point?
The 1985 CBC Production of Anne of Green Gables was excellent in many ways, but most importantly: its casting was perfection. (I think about it always in italics, as though I were Emily of New Moon before Mr. Carpenter got his hands on her prose style.) Colleen Dewhurst! Richard Farnsworth! Every warm appraising stare, every subtle twitch of the mouth, was a rural Canadian dream. But it was Megan Follows who was the star, who was Anne, who looked Anne (here, obviously, I’m riffing on the drama club plotline in Anne of Windy Poplars, in which poor impoverished Sophy “…was Mary, as Jen Pringle could never have been,” a dramatic moment which I’m sure all cake-eating male TV executives remember vividly.)
The 1985 Anne production came out when I was nine and thus deep in to my life-long Anne relationship. Even at nine I had been around long enough to learn what all reader kids know: that when beloved stories become television, you should prepare for disappointment. But Megan Follows was a revelation, or rather, a consummation. “Even before I saw the show,” I once earnestly told some adult, “When I pictured Anne, I pictured her.”
I did not picture whoever they are going to cast in this new version with its new territories.
I am not categorically opposed to remakes or reinterpretations: if the new production team put out a press release saying, “We love and honor the 1985 production, but would like to restage Anne’s recitation scene so that she actually reads a poem called “The Maiden’s Vow” rather than “The Highwayman,” and also, in the sequel, we find unhelpful the attempt to conjure a romance between Anne and Little Elizabeth’s father,” then I would be RIGHT ON BOARD, even with the new casting.
But, as is, this new production reads as cynical and mercenary, which is exactly the opposite of what Anne ought to be. It feels colonial, expansionist; it feels like the opposite of learning how to find joy in what you have, which is what the Anne books teach us. The writer, fresh from Breaking Bad, is not some dude TV exec, she is a woman, and she tells us she is excited to “push the boundaries” of this story and I just want to tell her: sister, please, bring not your melodramas of beset manhood to Green Gables. Leave this masculinist “boundary pushing” tomfoolery in the morass of televisual antiheroism where it belongs.
Sarah Mesle: A Little Judgy